About Us

One Crazy Idea

It all started with an April Fools Day joke, claiming we were set to spend a year in Japan on the JET program.  After we had our laughs, we thought – why not?

We are Aaron and Brianna, and we’re glad to have you with us!  We’ve always loved to travel, and we’ve been taking annual international trips since 2015.  Interspersed with frequent local trips, we have the wanderlust bug for sure!

Now, we’ve saved up our pennies, and we’ve embarked on a new life of unlimited travel – never to look back!  We’re excited and terrified… come travel with us to the far reaches of the planet!

Speaking of pennies, you really don’t have to be rich to travel! See how we regularly make our dollars stretch and save $1000s on every trip with just these 5 unusual tricks!
(and we are NOT budget travelers)!

Read the full story that sparked this wild idea!


Who are we?

We met back in the days of online chat rooms – when AIM still had real humans and you could randomly chat with someone new at the click of a username.

Brianna was a bored teenager and picked Aaron’s username out of the pack listed under the “music” interest category.  He was online, and we found we had a lot in common.. except that he was a few years older and lived half a country away.  This terrified Brianna’s parents, sure Aaron was a serial killer preying on teenagers on the internet.

Turns out he likewise saw something special in Brianna, and he quickly won over her parents with his witty sense of humor and quirky silliness (seriously, he’s made a video about plants…).

Aaron moved away from Portland for the first time to live in another city with Brianna while she finished school.  He developed his trip planning prowess by taking us out to California, where we found we could tolerate each other on the road.  We also discovered McGriddles really don’t make a great daily breakfast (and we haven’t eaten them since!).

Then we both returned to Portland, got married in the Gorge, and honeymooned in Hawaii.


Over the years, travel has become an integral part of our lives.  It’s how we celebrate, how we escape, and how we make amazing new memories.

Who is Brianna?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

photographer, software engineer, cat-lover, anime geek
Mediator INFP-A, Enneagram 7, Scorpio, Slytherin, Mystic

I love all things adventure and am constantly pushing Aaron’s comfort zone.  I never really classified myself as a Type A person until I looked at myself and just realized I kinda am.  Too many hobbies draw my attention (photography, outdoor adventure, reading, anime, game design, crafts, etc.), and I can never seem to choose which to prioritize.  My father says I blaze my own trail, and I have proudly owned that identity and reinforced it ever since.  But this keeps things in our lives exciting!

Surprisingly, I’m not much of a planner (much to Aaron’s chagrin), and I love to just go with the flow and be surprised with whatever comes next.  Honestly, I love surprises so much, I once attempted to plan my own surprise birthday party!  Now, Aaron uses this to his advantage, taking me on entire trips where I don’t know even the destination until we arrive.  He took us to the San Juan Islands, mapped out an entire road trip to San Francisco, and planned his own huge milestone birthday bash in Costa Rica (which he simply couldn’t keep secret, spilling the beans a month ahead of our departure).

© Brianna Shade 2012

Travel for Brianna

I travel mostly for the photography – just take me where the pictures are! – though I’m also quite passionate about food and local ruins.

Read more about why Brianna travels!

I’ve also just recently discovered that I can travel for cats (yeah, I’m a little obsessed)!  TrustedHousesitters lets us care for cats while their owners are on holiday, giving us free lodging in exchange, and this is now dictating where we go next! :3

This journey has already opened my eyes to completely new ways of thinking and it enriches my life, allowing me to make a more positive impact on those around me.

© Brianna Shade 2013
  • Favorite color: blue-green
  • Favorite number: 16
  • Favorite food: sushi.. or cheesecake… or good ole classic dark chocolate
  • Favorite alcoholic beverage: gin and tonic
  • Favorite season: autumn
  • Favorite book: at the moment? The Kingkiller Chronicle (series – as yet unfinished 😡)
  • Favorite movie: too many.. I really love Usual Suspects, Shrek (the original.. and perhaps the 2nd one just for Puss), Mrs. Doubtfire, and Shawshank Redemption.. among others
  • Favorite anime: again, too many. Steins;Gate, Clannad After Story, Your Lie in April, and Your Name are at the top
  • Favorite country so far: It’s a toss-up between Japan and Croatia!
  • Favorite BIG tiny World article: Okonjima Nature Reserve – The African Cat Experience

Who is Aaron?

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

videographer, weirdo, alien-fanatic, closet Sith lord
Mediator INFP-T, Enneagram 9, Gemini, Gryffindor, Mystic

Firstly, I am part alien, part Darth Vader.  I would definitely consider myself a geek and someone who will surprise you with the most insane joke or prank out of nowhere.  If you hear a light saber or a dinosaur roar, it is likely just me dressing up out of the blue to liven things up.  I wanted to be a comedian growing up, and in the workplace, I have earned nicknames like Slim Shady and Cupcake Bandit.  I enjoy Japanese anime and watch lots of sci-fi movies… oh, and of course I travel.

The logistics of our journeys are my domain; I get us from one place to another – on time.  I pick the destinations (when Brianna isn’t otherwise guided by cats or photo ops) and figure out how we are getting to places, where we’re staying, and what we’re doing there. There is a lot of strategy in this role as we try to keep costs as low as possible and still experience the cities we visit to their fullest.  It’s tough to balance all of that with still being a good husband and not driving Brianna insane.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2016

Travel for Aaron

I am an adventurer who knows no bounds and is thankfully no longer tied to a desk job.  My passion is finding the human connection with others who are different than I am, understanding their culture, and learning different points of view on the world.  I want to break down the boundaries of fear and inspire people to travel more.

Read more about why Aaron travels!

Travel is more than monuments and sightseeing; it is about people.  We’ve already met some incredible individuals who we will remember for years to come.  While the locations have their own stories to tell, the people are what make each place memorable.

Going into this trip, I knew it would change me, and it already has.  As I continue to travel, I see the world around me differently. Perhaps I’ll find some inspiration on where I want to go next in life.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015
  • Favorite color: blue
  • Favorite number: 211
  • Favorite food: depends on my mood… but brownies are a great go-to!
  • Favorite alcoholic beverage: anything with bourbon
  • Favorite season: I’m liking them all more now than I used to, but if I had to pick, fall
  • Favorite book: Ready Player One.. with the Harry Potter series as a close second
  • Favorite movie: Star Wars (the original trilogy)
  • Favorite anime: Steins;Gate
  • Favorite country so far: I like them all for different reasons, but I most look forward to returning to Japan, though I also loved Namibia
  • Favorite BIG tiny World article: Travel Totaled my Car – How we Barely Escaped Eastern Oregon

Make unlimited travel a reality

Aside from traveling more, we want to inspire others to do the same.

Everyday life weighs us down and keeps us from really embracing our passions.  We’ve become robots – zombies – just going through the motions.  Why wait our entire lives to live?  This is why we dropped everything and hit the road!  We seek to reclaim our lives and make the absolute most of them.

We’ve also forgotten how to be human as we distance ourselves from our neighbors.  The world is more divided than ever.  We want to prove that the world isn’t really such a big place, and there are wonderful friends to be made all around the globe.  People everywhere are like us in many ways, and we can find a bit of home wherever we go!

Having the freedom to travel as much as we want is liberating, and it has taught us how to be better humans.  It has opened our eyes to unique problem solving, and it has exposed us to how simple happiness can be.

We want to share that with you and teach you how you too can add more travel to your life.


Ready to read more?

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Connect with us!

We would seriously love to hear from you.  Please say hi by dropping us a note on our Contact page, or share your thoughts and stories in the comments on any of our posts!

You can also find us on the social media of your choice – we’re most active on Instagram and YouTube, though you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and TikTok.

Be sure to follow our blog so you don’t miss out on our latest adventures, and sign up for our newsletter to keep up with what we’re doing, sneak peeks on upcoming journeys, and exclusive travel tips.. we’ll even hook you up with our latest awesome free resource to keep you traveling farther, longer!

We can’t wait to connect with you!

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

One more thing…

Packing up one’s entire life and setting out for the great wide world isn’t necessarily easy.  It means you have to leave some things behind.. someones.  Some folks are very close to their parents. Some have a strong network of friends.  Some have other family or kids.

We have kitties.  And we love them to pieces.  Meet Holee and Mochi.

It isn’t easy saying goodbye to them, so we decided to take a piece of them with us (kind of like tiny fuzzy travel gnomes!).  These cute doppelgängers will go to the far reaches of the globe with us, and keep us company all along the way.

They even have their own Instagram account!  See the world through their little eyes by following them here.  What do cats think of the Eiffel Tower?  Will they find a kindred spirit in the wild lions of Africa?  Is the fish really better in Tokyo?  We’ll find out!!


Do you travel with a gnome, rubber duck, or other buddy?  Join our travel gnome Facebook group and share your little ones’ adventures with us!

We’ve always envied those visiting exotic locations around the globe, but why should we sit back and watch others do it?  Why should you?  It’s time to prove this big world is smaller than you think!

Aaron and Brianna fancy signature

If you like the photos here, be sure to check out LotsaSmiles Photography (Brianna’s photo blog)!